If you’re a regular visitor to Ban Ban Ton Ton, then you may well be aware of Madrid-based band, Casbah 73. They released a tune, a little while back, that made our pick of the top “Balearic Beats” in 2018. A track titled Love Saves The Day, licensed to local label, Lovemonk.
The group now have a new single out, care of Kraak & Smaak`s Boogie Angst. Let’s Invade The Amazon is cut from very similar sonic cloth as their previous smash – in that it`s also a very live-sounding lop-sided Dinosaur L-esque groove. Featuring some fine fretwork and a cracking vocal – concerned with climate change, the song warns that if we don’t drastically mend our ways then we really will go bang! Dynamite disco-not-disco, it`s something worthy of New York`s mighty Ze Records – imagine a meeting of Arthur Russell and August Darnell. Boasting a big bongo breakdown and fancy electric keys. The latter take centre stage on the single`s flip, Pale Splash Of Blue – funky as fuck, dancing, prancing, this packs some proper musical prowess. Those keys criss-crossing in a variety of voices. Showing off.
Something that many of you might not know, I certainly didn’t, is that the man behind this brilliant outfit, Oli Stewart, is a revered vinyl collector / digger / dealer. For an idea of his wonderful wares, check out this amazing mix that Oli made for Worldwide FM.
Mindful of just how much everyone likes a list, our favourite four-to-floor expert, The Insider, asked Oli to rummage through his records, and his memories, and tell us about ten of the rarest 12” treasures that he’s found.
All words and selections by Oli Stewart. Trip down memory lane instigated by The Insider.
The Edge Of Daybreak / Eyes Of Love
“I’m sorry, what is this regarding?” I’m on the phone to a prison officer at Powhatan Correctional Center, located on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia, hoping to track down the warden who, it transpires, retired years ago. I’m trying to get some info on an album which was recorded by a group of inmates back in 1979, pressed and released by the correctional facility as well as sold and distributed – very – locally in extremely limited numbers. Nobody at Powhatan knows anything, nor does anyone seem familiar with the project. The task, as you can imagine, is an impossible one. Kept a copy, sold a copy, never managed to find that fabled stash of sealed LPs that is surely gathering dust in the warden’s locker.
Pedro Santos / Krishnanda
I’m DJing in Lisbon. The day of the gig I have a few hours to spare and take a wander round the wonderful fleamarket at Mercado de Santa Clara. Pretty soon my eyes are popping out of their sockets. Rare, independent Brazilian jazz, fusion, funk albums are everywhere. I have no idea what’s going on but I hoover them up mercilessly. Just one of those days. Then I fall upon this very bizarre-looking record. It has a gorilla on the cover and the horoscope style artwork reminds me of Tim Maia’s Racional albums. I have no idea what it is (to be fair, at the time nobody did), but it’s a euro, so it’s mine. Years later, I’m reading an interview with the ever-fascinating Ed Motta in an issue of Wax Poetics magazine, he’s posing in front of his amazing looking custom wooden record shelves and in his hands, glaring out at me, is that same damn gorilla.
Moacir Santos / Coisas
I’m a huge Moacir Santos fan, so anything I find by him I would always snap up. Not so long ago, there was an interview with Gilles Peterson in The Guardian in which he recommended this album with the following words: “If you find an original, you’re in Holy Grail territory – they are currently going for over £6,000. But I’m happy with my reissue!” That’d be nice to have, I thought to myself, as I idly rifled through my Brazilian records – the only category that I have filed – everything else is a random mess. Lo and behold, there it was. Praises!
Sarah Webster Fabio / Jujus/Alchemy Of The Blues
This is hard-hitting poetry, funky exciting music on the Folkways label. Sublime and very, very rare. So I’m in Tower Records in downtown Manhattan. I’d been alerted to the fact that they were selling off old vinyl stock, I have an hour to kill, and I think to myself: can’t hurt to take a look. Once I got there I made my way up to the vinyl section and oh was I glad I’d made the effort. I’m looking at whole stacks of sealed copies of a number of releases on the Nimbus label. Adele Sebastian, Horace Tapscott, names that don’t mean anything to me, to anyone really, but nevertheless I can feel it in my gut, this is major -was it ever! – and I duly scoop up the lot. I congratulate myself that this little visit has paid off in a hopefully major way and, work concluded, make my way to the ground floor. As I’m waiting for the elevator to arrive I notice another record bin by the door, sitting there like one of those slot machines in a Vegas bathroom – might as well use me while you’re waiting, sir! – and this one is overflowing with records priced at $1. “Oh just take a peek while you’re waiting”, I sigh to myself. Ten minutes later I emerge onto 4th Street, extra armful of records in tow. New additions now include multiple sealed copies of both “Jujus/Alchemy Of The Blues” and “Boss Soul” by Sarah Webster Fabio. From Tower Records.
Open Sky Unit / Sunshine
I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone this tale of record porn, perhaps because it’s a tad bitchy, but what the hell. I’m in Belgium, at a record fair – where else? – it’s nine am on a Sunday and I’ve just arrived. I was Djing all night – from midnight until 8am on my own type of all night – barely had time for a quick shower and an apple before hopping on the train. Now, I’m staring at this guy who recognised me. He’s a record dealer of sorts who apparently subscribes to my monthly mailout lists, so he can glean information on new discoveries, and he’s not shy about admitting this. Fine. He’s also being pretty scornful and seems to be giving me a right dressing down: “You’re so unprofessional, I’ve been here since 7am and I’ve found some great stuff, how can you call yourself a dealer and turn up at this hour?” I say very little in return and, eventually, he runs out of steam and moves on. “Thought he’d never leave!” says the owner of the stall, grinning as he turns round to greet me. He reaches behind him and hands me a large box of records I’d already arranged to pick up – we have an understanding going back years. Inside this box? Placebo – 1973, Cortex – Troupeau Bleu, lots of goodies. Lots, yes. Rare, very rare, yes, BUT – most importantly – twenty mint, unplayed copies of Open Sky Unit, an impossible to find soul-jazz beauty from 1974 recorded in a small jazz club in Liège, soon to be in huge demand amongst DJs around the world. So unprofessional.
Mulatu Astatke / Mulatu Of Ethiopia
Sometimes the pursuit of records makes you do things that might otherwise make you think twice about your personal safety in ordinary circumstances. Which is how I came to be in a rambling house overflowing with messy piles of LPs somewhere in New Jersey, with three guys who at first seemed like harmless frat boys running a side hustle/hobby selling breakbeats. We drank beer, we listened to weird rock records while checking for breaks. But as the alcohol flowed and the evening wore on, the mood slowly started to take a sinister turn and I knew that I should soon be on my way, as the jokes about dispensing with sales and simply relieving me of my cash increased in frequency. But then, in between the passive-aggressive clowning and semi-racist jokes about the funny-looking guy featured on the cover of some weird Ethiopian Airways record that’s just been produced from the many random records lying about, the needle drops and I’m mesmerized, utterly transfixed by the music. Meet Mulatu. I stick around just long enough to cop that album and head for the door. I’m in one piece, I still have my wallet and can disappear into the Jersey night. “How are you gonna get to the station?” they jeer as I hit the empty street. But I’m already gone.
Shamek Farrah And Folks – La Dee La La
This wonderful slab of vinyl isn’t anything like the rarest LP in my collection or that I’ve sold, but it holds a special memory for me, reminding me as it does of one of my first ever record buying expeditions to the States. I had no idea what this was when I came across it, but it just looked so right. So, on a hunch, I bought the box of sealed copies I found sitting under the counter at the Jazz Record Centre in Chicago. Which kind of defines how I went about things from then on. I took a gamble and…what a result! “Waiting For Marvin” is such a glorious tune…
Soap / East Of Underground
So many times on my travels, I would find amazing records that I just knew would be big. Only problem is, they wouldn’t be big for a while. The trick is to have faith in your intuition, quietly stock up and then wait for the right moment, which could be years. In some cases, over a decade or more. When I first came across this record, it was sitting there for the very unassuming price of .50c in a dusty store, where I was quietly minding my own business, wading through the stacks while I listened to the gun-nut store owner and his friends discuss who they would shoot and why it would be justified. When I took this record home, and for many, many years after that, it was still a .50c record. But I knew for sure that one day it would blow up – and not in the way the store owner and his friends liked to blow things up. I was right.
Ronnie April’s Positive Energy / Vol. 1
The story of a very rare record that almost wasn’t. Independently produced and recorded on his own label, an imprint that only ever released this one LP. Of the few copies that were pressed a handful of promos were sent out in very small numbers to local radio stations. In a strange twist of fate, a box of them was also shipped to London. This resulted in the record achieving cult status on the UK jazzdance scene while remaining completely unknown to collectors in the States. They didn’t even know it existed. A last minute, unexpected call from John Lennon inviting Ron to go on tour with him meant that any further plans for promotion were shelved, the project was abandoned and the bulk of the records were consigned to Ron’s basement. Thirty years went by, this gorgeous slab of jazzy disco remained locked away, forgotten, until I happened to come along. A deal was struck and I got my hands on the lot – all 400 copies. All gone now.
Larry Nozero / Time
“Daddy, daddy!” a little kid keeps looking at me and tugging insistingly at his dad’s shirt tails. “Dad!” Reluctantly – can’t you see I’m busy? – the father turns his attention away from the CD racks, bends down to see what the problem is. “What’s that?” he glances over at me. “No, son,” he says, a little too loudly for my liking. “No, son, that isn’t Kenny G”. I’m standing there, wild eyed and sweating profusely. It’s high summer in Chicago and I’ve just managed to sweet talk the owner of Jimmy’s One Stop Records into letting me into their basement storage area. Nobody goes in there these days, why would they? It’s just a bunch of old vinyl records, left over from the days when Jimmy’s was a distribution center back in the 1970s and a lot of material has been lying there, untouched and forgotten for years. But no longer, because for the previous two hours, something has disturbed the steady accumulation of dust in said basement. A presence, oblivious to the lack of oxygen, the intense heat, the stench of cat’s piss, with only one thing in mind – to unlock the secrets of this ancient vinyl tomb. Said presence was me, of course, and now I have staggered back up into the welcome light of day. I am gripping my prize – armfuls of LPs from the fabled Strata Records and Strata East labels. That would be “Glass Bead Games”, “Maulawi” – you name it. All sealed. You can call me Kenny if you want, kid.
Casbah 73`s Let’s Invade The Amazon is out now, on Boogie Angst. You can purchase a copy from a variety of places, all linked here.